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Miscellaneous Right Wing Attacks on the People

July 18th, 2017 · Politics, Populism, The Budget

by Joseph O’Shaughnessy

There are so many things gone wrong today that we can only list some of them and point out the insanity of the world and the country in which we currently reside.

Hillary Clinton

A survey was recently announced in which more people dislike Hillary Clinton now more than they did during the campaign. Doesn’t this say more about the people who took the survey than it does about a woman who worked her butt off to be top at her high school, then brilliant valedictorian at Wellesley, the most prominent women’s college of her era, then a top student at Yale Law, then a volunteer worker for the rights of poor women and children and blacks in the south, then an advocate for better education for children in Arkansas, then a fighter who humiliated herself before the entire country as she was vilified by hypocritical Republicans, Right Wing Fascists, the health insurance industry and billionaires who do not want to give up another penny so that the poor and the middle class…as they do in every other advanced country…can have affordable health care. She was also, incidentally, along the way, a great Senator and a great Secretary of State. The ONLY reason for her vilification is an all-out campaign by some of the most evil people in this country, who only want to destroy her so that she could never be elected and provide the very thing we are still seeking….rational government and affordable health care. What a bunch of fools Americans are!

Dumpster, the American President

What has the moron done today, you ask? Today, he beseeched his thimble-brained followers to believe that the Democrats, that these pea-brained voters have excluded from government totally and completely, favoring the toadies of the Right Wing Billionaires, that these same Democrats, not involved in the process at at with Senator McConnell, Speaker Paul Ryan and the Neo-Fascists in the House and Senate, were actually somehow partially responsible for the failure of a bill which the Democrats would never vote for in the first place, as it disengages about 24 million people from their health care. Not only is Trump a liar but he thinks that all his dopey followers will believe virtually anything he tells them. But why not? He told Congress to “repeal” Obamacare right now. Don’t wait for new plans, he said. That, of course, would eliminate about 36 million Americans from health care. When you go to your club every weekend and play golf with other Right Wing billionaires, I suppose you have no idea about what is going on in the world anyway.

Senate Budget Cuts Social Security and Medicaid — Trump Lies Again

There is a new budget proposal from Congress, that is, from the Republicans in Congress. As one would imagine, it is a budget by Republicans for Billionaires. [Read more →]

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Don’t play the Trump Distraction Game. Focus on Congress.

July 10th, 2017 · ALEC, Fascism, General, Health Care, Human Rights, International affairs, Medicaid, Medicare, Politics, Populism, Social Security, Taxes, Trump

by Joseph O’Shaughnessy

We’re fighting the wrong wars with Donald Trump in particular and with Republicans in general.

It’s not about refugees coming to America. Banning immigrants without documentation from 7 countries, while perhaps wrong in its method, is not the biggest of our problems. In fact, it is not even the biggest problem for them once they are established in this country.

And it’s not about Trump and Putin. To you, right now, they’re irrelevant. You have bigger problems.

Trump, the dolt, the clod, the playground bully, relegated by his father to a military school to control his impulses, has stumbled into something that has some merit. Not for you. Against you.

Think about it. Trump doesn’t want then here at all…any of them–any immigrants really. Because, as he sees it, they cost him money. And guess what? That goes for every American. He thinks we all cost him money. Not make him money–which he could not make at all without us, but…cost him….money. That is how he thinks.

So how does he try to distract us, just as he learned to do in military school and in business school and in his business life? He uses “fake news.” It isn’t an accident that he uses that term. His whole life is fake news. He uses it as a weapon against people in his personal life, his business life and now against  you. Against the American people. [Read more →]

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Billionaires, Taxes and Inequality

July 1st, 2017 · ALEC, General, Politics, Populism, Taxes, Trump, Wall Street

by Joseph O’Shaughnessy

F. Scott Fitzgerald supposedly said to Hemingway: “The Rich are very different from you and me.” And Hemingway is said to have replied: “Yes, they have more money.” They were both right.

Unlike the billionaire, you can’t take a trip to Europe on a private plane or fly your horse (if you could afford one) to Great Britain on a plane for a horse show or visit one of your nine homes to see how things are in that part of the country. You can’t go to sleep at night knowing that almost anything that can happen to you, any sickness, any accident, any misfortune at all…you can afford. Those are all important things and ways in which those with hundreds of millions of dollars vary more and more widely from those of us who live in the nether regions.

But what is rich in 2017? From a purely monetary standpoint, in the United States it probably means being in the income categories above half a million dollars annually in income. Each area of the country is different, but generally speaking this kind of annual income means that one will likely be able to amass wealth. Wealth, or net worth, the difference between what we own and what we owe, is a measure of how well we are able to hang on to income over time. In places like New York City Los Angeles and San Francisco, costs of living are high and pure wealth is more difficult to attain and requires a higher income.

Here’s what we know about income inequality from revenues and taxes. About one percent of taxpayers in the country have incomes of $1.25  million a year on average. It looks like they pay a little over $300,000 in taxes. Of the roughly $1.23 trillion in taxes paid in total by Americans in 2015, the top one percent paid about 23% of it. They should. They earned about 21% of all income. (About 3 million people)  Another 194 million people, or 63% of the population averaged somewhere between $20,000 and $40,000 per year and paid less than 6% of all taxes. They should. They made less than 40% of the income while representing nearly two-thirds of the population. But that’s not the whole story.  [Read more →]

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Health Care Disaster Is Just the End of a Long, Long Road.

June 24th, 2017 · Capitalism, Fascism, Health Care, Lobbying, Politics, Populism, Social Security, Taxes

The Republican Senate, House, President Trump (sounds so ridiculous!) and the Billionaires have written you out of health care. And they will do more…cut taxes for the rich, end efforts to control air and water pollution, spend untold wasteful, profiteering amounts on the military and gradually shut down Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

Unless you act, that is, get out on the street with unions, firefighters, nurses, average workers at restaurants, airports, libraries, hospitals, auto repair shops–everyone–average Americans will lose the future. Right now, wages do not go up because 80% of the income, and there are hundreds of billions earned every year, go to the top 1% while 300 million Americans share the remaining 20%. You wonder why so many people struggle these days? Because Trump is right…the system is rigged. He should know. We elected one of those by whom the system was rigged.

Our American disaster did not happen overnight. The new Republican health care plan to repeal health care for tens of millions did not come into the mind of Mitch McConnell last week. This plan, so cruel and so damaging to the budget and perhaps even the stability of the few remaining Middle Class families, and devastating to the now vastly expanded number of poor working class families (more working people on food stamps than at any time in our history) came about as the result of years of Republican catering to and harnessing the spending power of the worst of the Neo-Fascist Right Wing Rich.

The con-man Donald Trump didn’t appear as if by magic on the political scene. He didn’t appear out of some white puff of smoke. The Republican Party, seeing that the Democrats in 2012, keeping a political campaign going right up until the Convention and then coming together, were able to dominate that election, decided, as usual, with more money from more from the “dark side” billionaires than ever before, supported  an unheard of 16 Republican candidates for President starting about a year early. [Read more →]

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Mitch McConnell Wants to Destroy American Health Care

June 12th, 2017 · Corporations and Industry, Democracy, Economics, Health Care, Human Rights, Lobbying, Medicaid, Medicare, Politics, Populism

by Joseph O’Shaughnessy

The Republican leader in the Senate is trying to rush through a secret health care proposal, bring it to the floor of the Senate without  hearings with Democrats, without amendments…in other words….in virtual secrecy.

So why would the Senate leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, want to do that? The most likely explanation is that he does not want to publicly allow the publication or the broadcast of the details to reach the American public. You see, Senator McConnell does not work for the people of the United States or even the people of his home state, Kentucky. Mitch McConnell is the leader of the Senate Republicans because he is the big breadwinner in the Party He has always been the big money raiser from corporations and large Right Wing billionaire and multi-millionaire donors. And he spreads it around.

This time it is the health care industry. This bill, this bill he wants to keep secret from Americans, and the Senate Republicans want to keep secret, is written for the health care industry. We know some of the provisions. First, it will allow free rein to all health insurance companies to go crazy with rate increases again. One company has already said that under the Obamacare provisions, removed by Republicans, and its “corridor” underwriting (that is, government support of companies surprised by unusual risks that might occur because of unforeseen demographics) rates might go up about 8.8%. Under the Republican proposal, which is secret…but we know the outlines, and we know who benefits….the opposite number—30% increases—are likely. [Read more →]

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Trump’s Lies About Climate Change

June 3rd, 2017 · Obstruction, Politics, Populism, Taxes, The Environment, Trump

by Joseph O’Shaughnessy

The President announced yesterday that he would disengage the United States from the world effort to keep climate change from completely submerging the state of Florida (which may not be all-bad in itself) and burning all our forests to the ground, not to mention a summer heat too hot to even consider playing tennis or golf.

The facts diverge quickly from those provided by Trump. Here are the facts.

    1. He says we will incur “legal liabilities.” Nonsense. We don’t have any more “legal liability” whatever that may mean…most people have no idea what he’s talking about…in the agreement than we do otherwise under international law. Again…probably a lie simply invented to create confusion. The agreement specifically states that there is no legal liability for any participant.
    2. China and India are not the leading polluters, per capita. America and China are the leading polluters per capita, and the U.S. emits more than five times more per person than a much larger and industrially more active China and 8 times more per person than India. But it sounds good to Trump because they have the largest, and in India’s case, the poorest populations. But they have huge problems that we do not have and they are making efforts to reduce their pollution problems, China, in particular, is moving very rapidly. Far faster than we are.
    3. Trump says it will cost $3 trillion to stay in. That’s a Koch-Brothers-Funded, Heritage Foundation think tank lie. The Koch Brothers own the largest polluting companies, have over 4,000 miles of pipeline (talk about liability!) and once paid the largest fine to the government ever for pollution. California proves that clean-air, clean-water and reduced total pollution creates more jobs, not fewer, and makes governments stronger, not weaker.

[Read more →]

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The Obama Presidency, Looking Back

May 28th, 2017 · Economics, General, Health Care, International affairs, Obstruction, Politics, Populism, Trump, Wars and Militarism

It’s been a quarter of a year now, a little more, since the end of the Obama Presidency. The contrast, and the events that occupy most of our time relating to politics that give us that enormous contrast, lead us to believe that our future may be quite bleak.

So let’s assign a couple of credits right out of the barrel to President Obama. In fact, let’s give him three.

1. He saved America from a giant depression.

First of all, he came to school prepared. When he was persuaded that his election was likely, in late 2008, it is pretty clear that he and his staff focused on what was going to be necessary to save the country from disaster. Later on we can talk about what he did internationally and domestically, but his first job was to save the country. And he did.

Over 700,000 people a month were losing their jobs when he walked through the doors of the White House in January of 2009. By October, job losses had been matched by job gains and the country was beginning to turn around. Unemployment had risen to over 10% and the budget was in deficit, not just for 2009, but as far ahead as the country could see, by over a trillion dollars a year.

It would be four years before he could bring those Bush-Cheney deficits down under a trillion dollars. And in the meantime, the national debt, once balanced under President Clinton, had gone from $5.6 trillion to over $12 trillion. And because of the Great Bush-Cheney Stock Market Collapse and Recession, trillion-dollar deficits would go on for the next four years and add another $4 trillion to the national debt.

It should be noted that President Obama asked for about a trillion dollars in fiscal support from Congress to jump-start the economy but only received about $800 billion of which $300 billion was another worthless Republican tax cut, as useless as the tiny stimuli that George W Bush had enacted during his tenure. Bush and Cheney had cut taxes twice, resulting in huge deficits between 2001 and 2008. [Read more →]

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Comey, Commies, Fascists and Rigged Elections

May 12th, 2017 · Capitalism, Politics, Populism, Trump

There are only two logical reasons why Trump would fire Jim Comey. One is easy and obvious. The other may be hidden and is politically very dangerous.

If Comey was moving forward with investigative lines supported by evidence that the President, or one of his closest advisors had been involved with the Russians in rigging the vote, then the President either had to resign or fire Comey.  And this is whether or not the President personally was involved, or approved what happened or knew about illegal activities and simply did nothing. Musing on your public image while ignoring an apparent felony is no defense.  [Read more →]

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The Trump Republican Tax Cut for the Super-Rich

May 4th, 2017 · General, Lobbying, Politics, Populism, Taxes

by Joseph O’Shaughnessy

Let’s establish one thing right away. The new tax bill proposed by President Trump and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin is a tax cut for the super-rich. For the rest of us, it will bring an average tax cut of about $600 a year. The thing that they don’t mention is that the national debt will increase and they will come back later to cut your Social Security, health care subsidies (not just for the poor) and Medicare. This is already in the works but if this tax bill goes through, it will be certain.

In this age of 1% versus 99% inequality, the plan is so outrageously callous that one hardly knows where to begin. Let’s start with the Inheritance Tax. It goes 100% by definition to the rich. The only people involved at all are those who would have paid taxes if their inheritances were over $5 million–$10 million for a married couple!  So if someone with orange hair says that this tax break does not favor the rich, well folks, he’s lying. The next tax break goes to the uber-wealthy who now pay a 39.6% top rate which starts at $415,000 (you know…the middle class.) Now they will start at 25% (minus deductions of course) but if they own the company, they start at 15% and work down.

Now let’s have a quick test about who…rich or middle class or poor…is getting the best tax breaks.  Which group most closely describes the person making over $415,000 per year, and owning the company? Multiple choice: A. Donald Trump’s buddies, B. Steve Mnuchin’s buddies, C. Dick Cheney, or D. a homeless family. The question answers itself.

Dick Cheney got it wrong. Deficits do matter. They kill programs for child care, pre-school, assistance to the disabled, veterans’ programs, and help for the chronically ill and mentally ill, plus huge numbers of programs that working families deserve. They destroy infrastructures. On the other hand, taxes raise up society.

But now, with the new tax cuts, the rich should be happy.

Some economists. such as Thomas Sowell, the first nationally visible Black economist of the television age, which doesn’t make him a great economist, just the first nationally visible Black economist of the television age, objects to the idea that tax cuts for the rich are damaging. On the contrary he says, “look at revenues they went up more every year under Reagan than they did under previous administrations.” Yes, Thomas, but so did populations, those who pay the taxes. So of course there were more revenues. There are always more revenues as population increases. Duh! But guess what? After the Reagan draconian tax cuts, the national debt tripled! [Read more →]

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Why You Need to Rage Against the Horrible Republican Health Care Bill

May 1st, 2017 · General

The Republicans have been working on an attempt to introduce new legislation on the health care act that will satisfy both the Republicans in the House and the Democrats in the House.

It’s not going to happen. The Democrats will try to protect the people, even though the people voted for the Republicans. Yes, people are basically stupid.

The problem is made more complicated by the fact that the so-called “Freedom Caucus” which is basically Tea Party members supported by Right Wing billionaires seem to be against anything that costs any money at all. And there is no free lunch in health care. We can’t have more tax cuts for billionaires and subsidized health care, which we desperately need as a society. We are the only advanced country where there is no universal health care, paid for in general taxes.

The fact is that the Freedom Caucus, ultra Right Wingers (Tea Party) doesn’t really want health care subsidies at all. It was a Tea Party Senator, Marco Rubio, who gutted the bill in 2015 by slipping in an amendment to an appropriations bill that virtually removed subsidies resulting in the problems with higher premium prices and lack of health insurance offers in some areas.

In this instance as the video shows, they want to pawn off the responsibility for handling subsidized care for those with a previous condition, or as the Republicans call them, “high risk” citizens on the states. If you’ve ever been sick, you are ‘high risk” and your premiums, under the Republican plans, will go shooting up…also if you are lucky enough to get older.

Of course, not everyone not everyone can afford private health care insurance these days. After all, not everyone has a House Member’s $174,000 salary plus expenses for office space, mail and personnel that runs another approximately $1.270,000 per year.So one of the sticking points is that the Republicans don’t want to be on their own health care program. They want to be on one that they have written specially for them.

Here are just some of the problems with the House bill:

  1. It does nothing at all to control the prices of health care insurance premiums. There are no controls because this is a bill written for the health care industry. It relies on trusting the health care industry once again to “do the right thing” for the American people. When will we learn our lesson? Large corporations these days have allegiance to only one thing: profits.
  2. It does not address guarantees or subsidies for those with previous conditions. It leaves the conditions to the states. Well, if you live in about half the states, they were not concerned whether the poorest citizens lived or died. They left them without any insurance at all, and very little health care outside of emergency rooms, at some of which they could be rejected, leaving them to die. We know what happened before. Even a pregnancy could be considered a prior condition.
  3. It eliminates all funding for Planned Parenthood. Abortion is not the issue. The issue is whether a fetus has become the tiniest aspect of a human child. When does it have sentient impulses and when does it feel pain. Doctors say between 24 and 28 weeks. The Churches who want abortion completely removed, easily won the day with the Republicans who are indebted to the backward-looking of science, religion, and finance for their support.
  4.  It will remove all cost-sharing subsidies completely by 2020. This means that the insurance companies (health insurance is mandated as the system to run health care) will be able to charge as much as they want in premiums again, including 5 times as much for older citizens as they charge younger ones. If you are 60, you will pay as much as $2500 for the same policy that a younger person pays $500. Without subsidies, many people will be priced out of the market.
  5. If you have lost your coverage and don’t renew it (by very expensive COBRA apparently) within 63 days, the insurance companies can charge you (and will) 30% more. This is the bill’s…again…insurance-industry-focused attempt to get around the fact that everyone now expects to have continuous coverage that they cannot lose. You can’t lose coverage, but the insurance companies want the money. That means that you pay them more for not paying them continuously.
  6. Medicaid will be sent to the states in block grants. If you think that some states, beholden to oil interests or financial interests have tried to screw you before, you ain’t seen nuthin yet.  They will have the right, for example, to create new insurance plans with insurance companies, to make them affordable but will have no usable coverage. They have already reduced the levels of eligibility and added the option to create work requirement before offering coverage. The whole thing stinks from the top. What they are trying to do is rid their huge corporations and rich owners of the costs of caring for the poor that their own greed has created by sending jobs abroad where they could have been done here. The goal is to phase out Medicaid completely by 2020.

This is the plan. Cut costs. Reduce the standards for health insurance policies. Turn financial assistance to individuals basically from an upfront discount coupon to a mail-in coupon. Citizens will pay their higher premiums…that’s better for insurance companies…but get their subsidy in a tax-credit at the end of the year. Premiums for individual health care buyers, still sold in exchanges, can go as high as the insurance company wants. The poor, the laid off, the unemployed and the elderly are dealt with harshly–30% to 500%!

Watch out Medicare. They’re coming for you next.

 

 

 

 

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Warning: Health Care Disaster Looming

April 22nd, 2017 · ALEC, General, Health Care, Politics, Populism, Taxes, Trump, Wall Street

by Joseph O’Shaughnessy

Here’s the problem and I’m going right at it because we don’t have much time.

Congress is about to change the rules on health care. You need to wake up and contact your Congressman/woman now. That’s how you can stop it. It is easier than cancelling Comcast. I’ll tell you how to do it later. Or you can scroll down and do it now. If your Congress person is a Republican, it is easy. They are all on board with this legislation and against you. Just call and say…truthfully…that if they do this to you, you will not vote for them.

Here is what is about to happen. The House of Representatives is controlled by two factions of Republicans…the bad guys and the very bad guys. You pay a ton of taxes. Less than Europeans, but enough to complain. They think they’re doing you a favor by even letting you have employer cost-shared health insurance. The rest should all be between you and the health insurance company.

They, meanwhile, are being paid by the insurance companies, through huge campaign contributions, to devastate your health insurance. Here’s what can happen. Let’s say that you lose your job. The old system, before the Affordable Care Act, (Obamacare) is back in place. So you go on what is called the COBRA plan. So now you can buy your old health insurance, the one you had with the company, but you pay your share AND the company’s share. (Who knows what they will say that is…my guess is…suddenly more than your share.) If you are sick, or have had any kind of a disease, maybe mild diabetes, high blood pressure…who knows under the new rules (health insurance industry written rules…look up ALEC on Google if  you don’ t know about it)…you have a pre-condition.  [Read more →]

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How Republicans Tried to Kill Obamacare and Give Us the Cheap Ryan Substitute.

April 11th, 2017 · ALEC, Budgets, Economics, General, Health Care, Jobs, Labor, Lobbying, Obstruction, Politics, Populism, Social Security

I just heard from the Republican House member from my district, Peter Roskam, on health care.

He thanked me for expressing my support for Obamacare, which was nice as he obviously has a different point of view, having voted for repeal 51 times and now having tried to pawn off on us this new, more health-insurance-industry oriented plan. His reasoning is that Obamacare is a “massive, new government operation aimed at making sweeping changes to the entire U.S. health system.”

Well, let’s take a look at that statement. Maybe he’s right. European systems, much better than ours and cost half what we pay for health care. European systems never have denied anyone health care…rich or poor…or in their cases…not even tourists. Obamcare is far less intrusive and far less comprehensive. It involves only those who do not have employer-based health care, which is about 85% of the population. People already had Medicaid and children had SCHIPS, vets have VA and seniors have Medicare. We are talking about a limited segment of the population, not a massive undertaking. Workers with insurance plans were covered.The poor, veterans and those over 65 were covered. So all this big hullabloo was over about 20 to 30 million Americans, out of 312 million. Certainly not “massive” by any standard of government programs that Republican Congressman Roskam is used to approving.

Look, the goals of Obamacare were pretty specific. One goal was to keep people with property and income from becoming bankrupt from medical bills. About half a million people a year were going bankrupt specifically because of huge medical bills. The other goal was to get medical care for  the “in-betweens” those who did not have employer-shared insurance policies, so that they would not show up at emergency rooms on their deathbeds. That is not unreasonable. [Read more →]

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Donald Trump Is No Populist.

April 1st, 2017 · ALEC, Capitalism, Corporations and Industry, Economics, Fascism, Health Care, Labor, Lobbying, Obstruction, Politics, Populism, Social Security, Taxes, Trump, Wars and Militarism

by Joseph D. O’Shaughnessy

I normally don’t sign what we all call posts. I don’t even refer to them as “posts.” Rather, I call them editorials or articles. But I don’t want any misunderstanding when it comes to who wrote this stuff about Trump. I don’t like him and I don’t like what he is doing to this country.

How do I know that Trump is no Populist? It has to do with a number of things…his background, his attitudes, the truth of his character and of his politics. Many of you will not be shocked to learn this but Donald Trump is not one of you. You might say…”how do you know?” I know because statistically it is very unlikely that any of you were born into substantial wealth or left an inheritance in the tens of millions of dollars in rapidly appreciating New York City real estate.

So, trust me, Trump is not your buddy. If he met you on the street, which he wouldn’t because he goes from his office to a limousine, he would not recognize you five minutes after he had shaken your hand unless you were worth more money than he is.  He is no Teddy Roosevelt nor Robert La Follette, nor George Norris nor William Jennings Bryan nor Harry Truman. He is no Jack, Robert or Teddy Kennedy. He is simply a wealthier version of George W. Bush with a Vice President equally as Neo-Fascist as Dick Cheney but with a more deceptive demeanor. Good men don’t cut 24 million people from health care with a smile.  [Read more →]

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Should We Be Taking Michael Moore Seriously?

March 12th, 2017 · Capitalism, Corporations and Industry, Democracy, Economics, Education, Health Care, Human Rights, International affairs, Labor, Politics, Populism

Have you seen “Where to Invade Next,” the title of the latest film by gadfly documentarian, Michael Moore? I guess his films are supposed to be funny. But if you like the humor of Ron White or Chris Rock, you might want to pass on Michael Moore. I don’t find his films funny. But wait a minute before you walk away. Moore, I discovered in this film, has a message to which we probably should pay a little attention.  And this movie got my attention because it was alternately funny and serious… but entertaining while delivering a message that every American should see.

His opening is not very funny nor is it entertaining. In fact, it is pretty uncomfortable. There is a scene in which a bunch of high school kids in Southern California all dressed in bathing suits or shorts are leaving a party. They had gone to a pool party to which they weren’t invited and they had been told to leave and they were all leaving. For some reason, out of the crowd a cop grabs a young black girl who was walking and talking with her both white and black friends and tosses her roughly to the ground and yells at her when she asks him why he has done it. There is another scene of the young man, Eric Garner, who was choked to death by the police while lying on the ground and repeating over and over and over again, “I can’t breathe.” We watch as the police slowly choke him to death, despite his pleas.

There was a scene of people waiting in line to vote…all African-Americans…at least 300 of them, waiting to vote. I don’t wait to vote. Why do African-Americans anywhere in this great country…why is it necessary for African-Americans to stand in line for hours to be honored with their birthright…the vote? (And why are they profiled and removed from voting rolls? This is where election fraud exists. And it may have been why a woman with 3 million more votes than her competitor lost an election in states with Republican Governors, and Republican legislatures.)

More than any other Americans except perhaps Native Americans, African-Americans should not have to wait to vote. The overwhelming preponderance of so-called Black Americans come from slave ancestors. They have paid their dues. They should go to the head of the line to vote. And they should never be made to wait. The same for Native Americans.

So none of this beginning is particularly funny, the way we think of Michael Moore. It is not funny watching another African-American woman marching with a group of white and black peaceful protesters being suddenly stopped and tossed on the ground violently and then kneed with great force in her back as she lay face down on the ground and then handcuffed, for no apparent reason other than that she was Black and walking along on a street with others. Moore is just pointing out features of our current society and making fun of the way we do things. And these things are part of our everyday lives. He’s giving us a mirror into just some aspects, but the less attractive aspects of American Democracy. He’s making the point that we are not always living in a way that exhibits “American Exceptionalism.”

He shows bridges falling down in Minnesota, with cars on them. That is dangerous, not funny. He shows parents being asked to provide school supplies, even…and this may be funny…toilet paper because in those school districts some things must be sacrificed because of lack of funds. He shows a Marine Captain whose house was foreclosed on while he was in Iraq. Not funny to the Marine, that’s for sure. Over 5,000 military personnel were foreclosed on…some by the man who is now Trump’s Secretary of the Treasury. And this is not funny to those Marines, trust me.  There was no reason for that cop to toss a young black teenage girl on the ground. No reason for cops not to check and see if something was wrong with Eric Garner that might have caused him to be unable to breathe. Not funny. Just a message about who we are as Americans…in some places at some times.

It shows the gentle face of a surgeon who was killed as the result of hatred and religious fanaticism. He was only one of several who were shot to death for providing perfectly legal pregnancy terminations for women. It doesn’t show the ruin of the country by people who vote against their own best interests by voting for predominantly Republican House and Senate legislators who go to Washington to sell out Obamacare, Social Security and Medicare for the thirty pieces of silver given them by lobbyists for big oil or health insurance companies or one of the hundreds of lobbying organizations organized, funded and directed by the billionaire Koch Brothers.  It doesn’t show the damage caused by the hatred promoted by Right Wing Conservative radio talk show hosts. It doesn’t show the division in our people created by billionaires and aspiring billionaire corporate CEOs who, rather than honest, decent, compassionate physicians, should all be killed by the people, perhaps in public hangings to cleanse ourselves of those who would take away our democratic institutions and deliver us all..Black, white, Hispanic, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant…to slavery or destitution.

But then Moore turns from the United States and on his premise of invading other countries to see what he can take home to the U.S. as booty from his conquests, he starts with Italy. In Italy he meets a couple, a cop and his wife who also works. The spoils from Italy turns out to be their vacations. They get 8 weeks of vacation. Do their employers mind, he asks. No, they say that their employers feel that it reduces stress. They may be right. Italians live on average 4 years longer than U.S. citizens.

But Moore is not satisfied. So he goes to Dukati, the famous motorcycle manufacturer. He arrives at lunch time. Dukati employees have a 2-hour lunch. Many go home for lunch. So Moore talks to the head of the union. The union leader says that they still work for some things, and it was not always easy getting these benefits but for now it seems to work. The owner of Dukati says he is very happy with his situation. He has very motivated, dedicated employees most of which have been with him a long time. What difference, he says to Moore, is it—as long as I have no labor problems, whether I make a million or five million?

And Moore sees a woman with a baby and asks her about maternity leave, which she says is 5 months paid leave to have the baby and spend time with it in its first months of life. No one seems to even question this and most seem to wonder why he is even asking about it.

So Moore tells them that he likes their vacation and 2-hour lunches  and maternity leave and he is going to steal them and take them back to America. Then he goes to France.

He seeks out and goes to one of the poorest villages in France. He goes to an elementary school. Even in this small, poor rural village, the children eat lunch on real plates, with knives and forks and glasses—for water. All they drink is water with their meals. And the meals come from a menu prescribed by a chef who designs meals for the schools. This day the children ate tomato salad with mozzarella cheese, ham with mustard, pasta and either vanilla pudding or fruit and cheese for dessert. During the one-hour lunch hour, the children learn the proper diet, learn proper ways to dine and serve others and learn to use their lunch time to relax and exercise.

The children’s meals always include certain things, like fish, or a pasta dish or a stew and fresh produce. But the truly impressive thing about this is that the French actually spend less per child than Americans do, with our bad diets and rushed eating. And it goes without saying these days, that the French children test far, far better than ours. (But remember this…our rich are much richer than their rich.)

How do they pay for it all, even though it costs a little less than our imperfect meals and shorter time spans and less effective education? Taxes. They pay more taxes than we do…but the surprise is that while they pay more, they pay not much more. So what is an accurate comparison?

Well, for our taxes we get fire and police protection, water (although not always drinkable any longer) roads (usually), bank bailouts and wars in other countries. The French get fire and police, clean water, good roads (they can drive at 150 mph on highways), no bank bailouts and fewer wars but free health care for everyone, free college, almost free daycare, paid sick leave, paid maternity leave, 4 weeks paid vacation, free prescription drugs, free nursing care, better schools and a huge amount spent on supporting the arts. And they know where their money goes. The French require that their paychecks itemize what percentage and what amount goes to what department.

The French are much more realistic about sex. They teach sex education earlier and more frankly and matter of factly than do we. Yet their rates of sexually transmitted diseases are far lower than ours and our rates of teen pregnancy are double that of France….6 times greater than Germany and 7 times greater than the Swiss.

Next Moore traveled to Finland which has the highest rated students in the world to see just how long and hard the Fins must push their students to achieve these goals. In the 1960s Finland and the U.S. were relatively comparable in educational achievement among kids up through high school. But no longer. How do the Fins do it? Well, first of all, they have no homework. If it should happen, it would be rare, and one girl says it is….about ten minutes, no more. Furthermore, the children only attend class about 20 hours a week, with the shortest school week and shortest school year in the Western world. In addition to Finnish, they all speak English and usually at least one other language.  How do they do it? Well, first of all, the tests are all essay tests, with no such thing as multiple choice questions. Either you know the answer or you don’t. If you do, you write it down. If you can’t, you get it wrong. They don’t use standardized tests and don’t like them but every school in Finland has the same look and roughly the same size and same equipment and teaching quality. Public schools are meant to give every child the same opportunity in any part of the country. Private schools are illegal in Finland.

So, the Western part of Western Europe is doing pretty well, Moore decides, but how about the old Eastern bloc countries? They can’t be doing as well as we are, he muses. So he goes to Slovenia. He goes to the University of Ljubljana and talks with a student. The student says that she pays nothing for tuition or books to and including medical school. Then Moore meets an American. She’s a student and she pays nothing. As it turns out, not only does she get free tuition, but there are about 20 classes at Ljubljana taught in English! Actually, Moore says, there are about 22 countries in Western Europe and South America where college is free. So even in Slovenia, no one carries the burden of huge student loan debt into their working years.

Next he visits Germany and goes to a factory. The workers are on their afternoon break. German workers we discover have a 36-hour work week, paid vacations, maternity leave, government health care and other benefits and a very good income. None of the workers had a second job and they laughed at it? Why would we, they said, when they had struggled to eventually get such good working hours? Years ago, we find out, unions had negotiated, with great difficulty, to get workers on the boards of directors. Today, 50%, half of the boards of directors of large corporations are made up of workers. For that reason, CEOs of German corporations do not make the 300 to 400 times annual salaries of average workers that American CEOs earn. But, in Europe, as we begin to see in this film, people are different. Money is not everything or the only thing.

But what about drugs? Well, Europeans have a different view, but none more different than the citizens of Portugal. For over a decade, Portugal has allowed the legal possession and use of drugs. All drugs. Moore asks several policemen to answer some questions on drugs. How many people were arrested in the last year for drug possession…any drug…Moore asks.  Zero. None, they reply. No one is arrested for possession of drugs. There are no drug dealers. The government controls the sale of drugs. Even drug usage has gone way down. There are fewer addicts by half and addiction is not a crime but is actually treated as an illness and treated by state institutions. The secret is that rather than addiction and crime going up with legalization, it actually goes down. There are fewer users, fewer addicts, less crime and more emphasis on prevention and cure. Costs have dropped precipitously.

In the U.S. there may be more to it than just fear of criminality. After all, some of the people locked up for drugs are more dangerous to themselves than others. But there may be an actual incentive for government to keep people locked up. Part of Boeing’s workforce is prison labor. Pretty good incentive,, considering they make only 22 cents an hour in prison. And they can’t even vote. In Florida and Virginia, one in three black men have lost the right to vote because of their conviction for drug possession.

But is prison labor a big deal? Let’s see, we mentioned Boeing but there is also Eddie Bauer, JC Penny and, oh yes, MacDonald’s. And a few more, like Microsoft, Dell, IBM, Lockheed, ToysRUs, Janisport, Victoria’s Secret, Brooks Brothers, Whole Foods, Haystack Mountain, Walmart, Signature Packaging, Sprint, Verizon, Fidelity, American Airlines, Avis and many others. Portugal uses outpatient systems, treatment centers. We use prisons. We have 80% recidivism, one of the highest rates. Norway, for example, with a much more lenient penal system has only 20%.

What about other things? Women’s rights for example. Well, Moore visits Tunisia to find out. Tunisia is actually more liberal than the U.S.. in some areas. Women, for example, constitute 31% of lawyers, 27% of judges, 24% of the medical profession and 72% of pharmacists. They represent 34% of all journalists. They are pilots, soldiers, cops and 50% of parliament.

The strange thing is that many of these ideas, in education and health and women’s rights started here, in the United States. Things like the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment began right here in the United States. As he walks along the old Berlin Wall that divided Germans into East Germans and West Germans, he reflects on the walls that we have put up in this country between one citizen and another.

These walls are artificial and often foolish enmities, created by powerful forces to keep the average American from voting for change, for everyone, not merely a few billionaires and their followers. This film is much more entertaining than I have described it and every U.S. citizen with a household income under $500,000 a year should watch it and take the children.

 

 

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How Paul Ryan Plans to Take Away Your Health Care

January 25th, 2017 · Abortion rights, Budgets, Democracy, Economics, Fascism, Health Care, Human Rights, Lobbying, Obstruction, Politics, Populism, Trump

Paul Ryan and the Republican/Fascist leaders in Congress want to repeal Obamacare and leave you with the same kind of health care you had before the Affordable Care Act was initiated. (Republican/Fascists are the new Republicans. There are no more moderate or rational Republicans in the Republican Party.)

Here is the Republican/Fascist plan.

  1. Offer health insurance from health insurers to healthy individuals who can afford policies.
  2. Offer health care in exchanges limited to those who are high risk. Those policies will cost no more than 200% of an existing policy for healthy citizens. In other words, if you are sick before you get a policy and go into a high risk pool, you will still have a $20,500 tax deduction for you health insurance, but your bill could be no more than $41,000 per year.
  3. If you get sick and have a policy, you cannot be denied a policy as long as you pay the bill. If you let the policy lapse, even for one month, you will be put into the risk pool if you have a pre-existing condition,, i.e., if you are sick.
  4. In addition to the $20,500 tax deduction, you may have a health savings plan. In this plan, you put money into a savings account and it is tax free so long as it is just used for health insurance or health care.
  5. You pay for premiums and co-pays out of pocket, and the deduction in your taxes will offset the cost of insurance. Remember, a deduction is not a credit. It is less than a credit.

Ryan says that Obamacare is a disaster and that it is collapsing. Neither of those things is true.  Obamacare has put an additional 20 million people on health insurance who did not have it before, either because they couldn’t afford it or were excluded for health reasons. Before Obamacare, 500,000 people a year were declaring bankruptcy, citing a health care catastrophe as the reason. Children were born damaged because the mothers lacked pre-natal care. Women were dying of diseases that could have been prevented with annual checkups. Costs of prescription drugs were reduced. Medical equipment and devices became easier to get. And 100 percent of all poor people could have been provided Medicaid except for the political partisanship of Koch Brothers-sponsored Republican/Fascist governors in over half the states. Those millions made up that small percentage of Americans still without health care. [Read more →]

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